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Battle Over Homelessness Heating Up Yet Again In Venice

VENICE (CBSLA) - There was yet another setback Tuesday night in solving the homelessness crisis plaguing Venice.

Venice Homeless 1
A homeless encampment in Venice, Calif. Jan. 18, 2022 (CBSLA).

Months after the Encampment to Home program cleared Westminster Park of more than 200 people living in a homeless encampment there, locals are worried about what they've heard is a plan to start offering homeless services at the park.

Brian Averill is vice-chair of the Venice Oceanfront Walk Committee. He told CBSLA what he's heard about the so-called "decompression center."

"It's for folks who are decompressing from either mental breakdowns or heavy drug and alcohol use, which is great. That's necessary, but the problem is that's next to a school," Averill said.

Opponents said a lawsuit setting in 2016 should back them up. It quashed plans to use the park for homeless property storage, citing the elementary school next door.

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Venice resident Heidi Robert, who as a part of that lawsuit with Venice Kids Count, said this plan is even more unacceptable.

"They've broken every single promise they made to the community about safety and security. So, it's hard for us to trust anything that they bring into our community, especially when our kids lives are stake," Roberts said.

Katy Gross, another resident of Venice, said after a few months of relative peace, she's worried that with this new plan, the park will fill up again.

"...some of them starting fires, a lot of screaming profanities, high and just screaming nonsense right in our backyard. It was terrifying," Gross said. "I feel like this is bringing back what we found so hard to make a safe space for everybody."

So far, the city has not responded to multiple requests for information on what exactly is planned for the park.

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